Technologist in Residence

I'm currently doing a one-day-a-week residency at Culture at Work, an arts institute I previously worked with on the Brain Light Project and Shifting into Consciousness. Culture at Work is mainly artist-focused, but I pitched them on the idea of having someone with a more technological background around to do some interesting creative technology work.

The main idea I want to develop as part of this residency is the one I described in Behind the Silicon Curtain: it's hard to see the beauty in software because you can't look inside it like you can with hardware. Gears and pistons are interesting because you can see them move, and even if you don't understand what's going on you can at least appreciate the machinery. Code just looks like squiggles, and what's actually happening isn't even written in the code anyway, it's the abstract operations that the code represents.

Part of the blame for this lies at computing's origins in mathematics, which is a notoriously abstract and symbolic subject. Worse still, its other parent is electrical engineering, which is based on understanding and manipulating invisible forces. If computing had developed from weaving or mechanical engineering instead, perhaps we would be in a different place. As it is, we've built our tower out of opaque and arcane materials.

But there's no reason to restrict ourselves to what's been done before. The great thing about computing is just how easy it is to make a computer. It's so easy that we often make computers by accident, to the eternal fun and profit of hackers and security researchers. So what I'd like to do is work on some alternative models of computation that are designed to be transparent rather than opaque by default. I've got some interesting ideas around hardware-based FRP, knitting, and birds, so I'm going to work on some prototypes and see what sticks.

This will ultimately culminate in some kind of technology exhibition, but in the mean time I'll write up the work I'm doing here, which will mostly consist of pie-in-the-sky ideas and prototypes of alternate computation models.